tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 23, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, part two of our conversation with frank gehry. his work includes some of the famous buildings of the world including the walt disney concert hall here in los angeles. more on his life and career, including the controversy surrounding the new eisenhower memorial. we are glad you could join us tonight. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tavis: welcome back. our conversation with this icon, frank gehry. let us that we had a wonderful conversation. we talked about -- last night we had a wonderful conversation. we talked about his early life. his family life. if you did not get a chance to see it, go to our web site at pbs.org. i'm delighted to continue that conversation. when we finished last night, we were talking about bilbao. it is one thing to say what we
say, what do you say. it seems to be that moment at which the world came to appreciate your gift. even here in los angeles. you had not been as regarded as you should have been until bilbao. what say you? >> should have been, i do not know. bilbao, i lucked out. i met a man who was the director. he was a genius in his own right. he had a vision for that building. it was a small competition. i insisted it be small. the longer they are, the more money you waste. we won it. based on a tiny model and a few sketches. it pretty much became the building.
even though i did not know it when we won. i started all over again. slowly, i came back to that. at first, i spent a lot of time in bilbao. i studied their music, their language, which is obscure and difficult. i could not speak it. it had a certain music to it. i love their food. i love their wine. it is like an after dinner drink. i studied the literature. i really became knowledgeable about who they were. i spent time with the leaders that were brought to the table. i knew the art. i knew the art world.
there was a program. he said, if you are going to make galleries that are not square, i urge you to do that. those will be for living artists, so they can engage with the. for the guys to a dead, we have to make the four square galleries. they are not here. it was brilliant of him. that has served well over the years. other museums, i am not going to mention them, some famous ones in new york are having to redo their galleries because they are all square. there is a resistance.
they always wanted. it is something they know. they are not willing to jump out. when you find a director who understands the art. he understands the artist. he knows people are going to engage. they did. they still do. it is wonderful. how can you thank me for a building? i get that all the time. tavis: how would you describe what bilbao bid for your career? >> i guess public-relations why -wise, bingo. i never had a public-relations person. the museum did. they did a of a job promoting it.
-- did a hell of a job of promoting the building. i can live in bilbao for free. i can walk down the street and nobody will charge me. [laughter] tavis: if this ever go south on you. >> it is scary. i was in a beautiful building. a lady came over and said, frank gehry? i said, yes. there were 50 people from bilbao. they swarmed around me. tavis: a was ignorant around this. i was in new york when they. -- one day. i did not realize you had done that building. a beautiful structure. >> rose was his partner that i
worked with. we did the second building, the power. -- tower. tavis: how does most of your work come these days? is there more stuff than you can handle and you turn -- >> i wish that were true. tavis: it is not? i would think it would be. why not? >> i do not know. you have to go around and meet people. i have never done that. they probably think i am too busy. i am not. [laughter] tavis: a want to phrase this the
right way, let me phrase it the right way, how do you assess our appreciation in america, or lack thereof, for architecture, versus places around the world? i ask that because there is this great debate about how little regard we have for historic edifices and structures. how would you size up our appreciation for architecture versus other places in the world? >> we are not a mature -- we have not matured into the ancients. there are towns -- they should be preserved.
maybe even may. -- me. this town is spread out. architecture has not been enormously important. i do not think it is much different than most cities. chicago is the only city that i think has made a dent in architecture. more than just a few buildings. tavis: you were involved in the millennium. >> yeah. that was richie daley who understood this moment. he did not understand my work at all. the family supported it. he became a fan. it would not have happened unless the patronage of that family. generally, frank lloyd wright did work there.
they have a history of that. they are proud of that. the new public buildings, i do not know. tavis: you and not a fan. >> not all of them. tavis: frank lloyd wright, your earliest influence? >> i had trouble with his politics. i was joe social in college. it seemed elitist. i never went to hear him speak. driving across the country from college, i stopped, i had two kids, we stopped. he was there.
i went to the gate. they wanted a block for each of us. i said, forget it. i regret that. he was great. there are no excuses for him. he is great. growing up architecturally on the western part of the country, you tended to be asia- centric. japan, china. my early work in college, gi's had just come back from japan. the wood technology of japan was easily assimilated here. a lot of the early stuff looks japanese. if you go to disney hall and think japan, you will see it.
tavis: you spent time in the military. what were you doing? what was your assignment? >> i was in the third infantry division, third army, it was eisenhower's division. now i am doing his memorial. i was in the infantry. i had a bad leg. they put me in the typist school. they gave me the morning report. after an hour, the captain said, what else do you do? [laughter] he had me making scienigns. they were getting ready to go on maneuvers. they had a new tactic. they needed charts made. they gave me that. the general knew somebody, there
was a lieutenant general, head of third army. he was a paratrooper. he decided -- they were looking for decorators. i got sent up there. i got taken into special services. i was married, had kids. removed from georgia up to atlanta. my first day, picking up the trash. even the special services they had us do that. my master sergeant was london nimoy -- leonard nimoy. [laughter] tavis: there is the third famous person. >> we did not know who he was then.
he was an actor. he was a master sergeant. he got out. years later, i was at a thing at boca. the director brought him over. he said, mr. nimoy would like to meet you. i should his hand and i rattled off all of the officers' names. he looked at me. who are you? [laughter] tavis: serving our country together. you mentioned eisenhower. you of doing this memorial in washington. some people are not crazy about the design. >> every memorial has a history. it was a competition.
it started after the slowdown, the economic slowdown. guys said, why do we not do it competition? i read the biography. i fell in love with eisenhower. i did not realize i was in his outfit. more important, i did not realize what a powerful guy thing he was. how he did it with a kind of modesty. a kind of wonderful camaraderie with people. his respect for his guys and the people he worked with. he lived that. i just went crazy. i decided to enter. the site was difficult.
it is on the back of a lot of buildings. it is a space that could become a park. we proposed that it be a park. that we create some kind of intervening something that makes it special. i came up with the idea of tapestries. it had not been done before. they had to be transparent. they were going to be in front of windows. we had to invent the technology. a polish artist said he could do it. he started doing it. it is really beautiful. once you set that frame, without destroying the park, the park is still there. you create a holy place to put
this serious story about ike as a president and a general. what i did was create a set. the historians and advisers to the commission, senator robert people, are a lot of and the family is involved. those with the issues. what you show and how you show it. i think it takes time. tavis: you mentioned this particular design and the park setting. i want to come back to talk about this new web based design. since you mentioned the park, it made me think, i had a number of conversations about this, i
found myself on my radio show talking more about this. the urban planning problem we seem to always have. it is more acute. there are environmental reasons, economic factors, sociological and cultural factors. what is your sense, this is too big of a question, what is your sense of our urban planning quandary and what we ought to be considering as a path forward? does that make sense? >> yeah? the great moves in history were done by a benevolent king wore a friendly dictator. they controlled a big enough piece of the land, the terrain, to make something happen. that is how european cities became the six or seven story
blocks that created the street. it made most of europe. it was a different time. democracy is a problem. that means people have rights to do things. god bless us that we got that. i do not want to mess with it. that means there are going to be collisions of thought. collision of thoughts represent itself in our cities. what is missing is a sense of responsibility for the greater good. it seems to have disappeared. does make a lot of money. they stuck foundations. they give back. if they gave as they were going, and left a better trail,
we would probably be happier. if you knew you were going to be the rich, and maybe you could give a little at the beginning. [laughter] a did not know how you would know. it is having a sense of responsibility to the city. our political leaders have to lead us there. tavis: how much have environmental concerns challenged, a change, aided and abetted the way you do business? >> it has done two things. it is real. i believe there is a problem. i believe most of us are beginning to understand, there is a problem. there have been fads that have been created that create different ways to do it.
those have to sort out. we areinding the real stuff. for me, 30%, as much as 50%, we build a $100 million building, at least $40 million is waste material. you will apply that, you talk about sustainability. -- you multiplied that, you talk about sustainability. that is why i got into technology. to build without waste. to focus in -- the waste happens because of errors, change orders. you have change orders. the power we just did in manhattan, 76 dostories. the exterior skin was built with no change orders.
there are a lot of people using technology. we have developed a more robust one. it started up because of the buildings i was doing. i never thought it would have any meaning to anybody beyond me. we helped a lot of architects. tavis: what is your hope for what this will do in the future? >> i hope the talented architects, the person trying to make something beautiful will be in charge and not marginalized by the progress. buildings come in over budget. the director tells the owner, do not worry, i will fix it. they straighten everything out. it looks like what it looks like. we have proven that if you control the information, whoever
is in control of the information can get a grip building for the same price. i have shown that. you give me a budget joe can do for normal, i can show you had to make architecture in the same thing. by eliminating the waste. that has become part of the game. tavis: i will shake your hand any time. before we end this, we talked about disney, bilbao, other wonderful properties he designed. you are 83 years young. a strange question to ask, have you build your magnum opus? is there still something greater that is going to come later? >> i hope so. i have not given up.
i am still dreaming. i think the kids in the office will tell me. the marketplace will tell me. [laughter] yeah. i still get up and enjoy it. philip johnson helped me. he was 98. he called me one day and said, do not retire. yeah. he was right. the friends of mine who are my age who are mvoing and shaking the still able to do it. tavis: i think there is something to the fact that when you sit delano you start to rest. -- sit down you start to rest. >> keep moving. tavis: i will keep moving. we are out of time.
i have a stack. >> i sent to some of them. tavis: i am going to have this signed them for me. i have been delighted to have you. that is our show for tonight. you can download a our new app. i hope you enjoyed these two nights with frank gehry. thank you for watching. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with -- morgan freeman on his upcoming film. that is next time. >> every community has a martin